Sub-Saharan Africa has among the widest gender gaps in mobile internet use in the world (right behind South Asia), with over 190 million women not using mobile internet services. High costs of devices and data plans along with low levels of literacy and digital skills are some of the reasons women are not connected.
Addressing the digital gender divide is critical for many reasons. First, digital skills and tools are essential for women and girls to participate fully in our ever more digital societies and accessing services such as health, education and financial. This is especially crucial for women living in areas with poor infrastructure, high rates of gender-based violence, and childcare burden.
Moreover, women’s low level of digital skills cuts them off from emerging employment opportunities. In Sub-Saharan Africa, over 230 million jobs will require digital skills by 2030. The employment of women in tomorrow’s workforce is critical as it can accelerate countries’ economic growth and productivity, as well as increase agency and lower fertility. GSMA research found that over a five-year period, closing the gender gap in mobile internet use in low and middle-income countries could generate an additional $700 billion in GDP growth.
At the World Bank, gender equality and empowerment is a priority. To close the digital gender divide in Sub-Saharan Africa, we work with client countries on solutions to provide affordable internet access for all, building digital skills tailored to women’s needs and interests, improving accessibility to products and services, integrating a gender lens in ICT policies, and supporting digitally enabled firms with funding tailored to women.
Without urgent, coordinated action, the digital gender gap may become even more steep. Let’s accelerate gender equality by making digital technologies work for all.